Student cycles for smiles
At the end of the second semester, Christopher Blodgett '06 will embark on a 2,600-mile bike ride from Brunswick to Miami. The ride will raise money for Operation Smile, an organization that provides reconstructive facial surgery for children born with facial deformities who cannot afford corrective medical procedures.
Training will begin after Christmas, as Blodgett will spend the spring working up to 60-80 miles a day. "I don't have any biking experience at all, so this is going to be a lot of work," he explained. At that point he also plans to begin focusing on fundraising, working to raise money mainly from friends and family, as well as searching for a donated bike.
The group, 15 riders in total traveling in groups of three, will stagger their starts from late April to mid-May in order to avoid crowding the route. Each participant must raise $10,000 in order to reach the group's desired donation of $150,000. While the riders aim to keep personal costs to a minimum, each must also raise enough money to cover food and some shelter on the road.
Blodgett started organizing the ride last summer, working alongside a man who rode from Norfolk, Virginia to Miami for the same cause. He anticipates that this ride will take between 45 and 52 days, and plans to arrive in Miami around July 4. He describes the ride as "something that I really want to do, and that will be a great experience personally."
In addition to the ride down the East Coast, Blodgett is also planning a day-long ride from Bowdoin to Portland that will accompany the first group of riders on their first part of the trip. Day-long regional trips are also scheduled in Boston, New York, Washington DC, and Norfolk, Virginia. These rides were devised with "twin goals of raising money and awareness," Blodgett said.
Blodgett began work with Operation Smile two years ago doing volunteer work while his father was away in Kenya. During this time, he helped to organize a student conference sponsored by the organization. He planned to go on a mission to China last fall that fell through since the group was scheduled to depart shortly after September 11. Disappointed at the trip's cancellation, he decided that he "wanted to do something significant. [Organizing this ride] was my way of contributing to this cause."
Operation Smile is able to gain five dollars toward support of its programs for each dollar received in donations. Surgeries are often cheap; for instance, cleft lip surgery can cost around $750. The organization has chapters in 19 different countries, and employs trained surgeons from across the globe to operate on children from those locations.